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Titanis (Wikimedia Commons)


Titanis (Greek for "titanic"); pronounced tie-TAN-iss


Plains of North America

Historical Epoch:

Early Pliocene-Early Pleistocene (5-2 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 8 feet tall and 300 pounds



Distinguishing Characteristics:

Large, heavy bill; grasping hands


About Titanis:

To many avid readers, Titanis will be familiar as the predatory bird in James Robert Smith's best-selling novel (and soon-to-be-movie) The Flock. This prehistoric bird could certainly wreak its share of mayhem: at eight feet tall and 300 pounds (give or take a few inches and pounds for possible sexually dimorphic differences between males and females), Titanis closely resembled its theropod dinosaur forebears, especially its puny arms with long-taloned, grasping hands.

As scary as it was, though, Titanis wasn't the most dangerous hunting bird of ancient times: in fact, it was a late, North American descendant of a race of South American carnivores, the phorusrachids (typified by Phorusrhacos, also known as the Terror Bird), which attained comparable sizes. By the early Pleistocene epoch, about two million years ago, Titanis had managed to penetrate as far north as Texas and southern Florida, the latter of which is The Flock's modern-day setting.


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